Riders at Rest by Burg Ubbergen
Oil on panel (parquetted). 59 x 73.7 cm.
Signed lower left: A. Cuyp.
Aelbert Cuyp was among the leading landscape artists of his era. He was especially renowned for his large format pastorals, which frequently evoked gentle morning or atmospheric evening moods. The present work is a very fine example of one such painting, in which he uses vigorous strokes of cream and silver tones to depict the rays of light that shine through the work and lend the scene a fresh morning feel.
Two riders and their horses are shown resting on a hillock. They wear the kind of unusual, exotic fur-trimmed velvet riding costumes that we also see in the works of Rembrandt. These outfits came to be known as “hongerlijn” as they were thought to originate from Hungary. On the left we see the ruins of Ubbergen castle, behind which the landscape opens out into a broad panorama. Another rider is seen approaching from a windmill on the right, and on the left a young stable boy holds a saddled grey horse by the reins.
Ubbergen castle was constructed in the 2nd half of the 14th century for Count Johann Ubbergen of Nijmegen. The building can be identified based on a drawing by Cuyp in the Albertina in Vienna (ill. 1, cf. exhib. cat. Aelbert Cuyp, A. Wheelock et al., Washington, London, Amsterdam 2002, cat. no. 88, p. 256). During the Netherlandish uprising against Spain in the 16th century, the residents of Ubbergen set fire to the castle on 23rd August 1582 to stop it from falling into the hands of the Spanish troops. It thus advanced to become a proud symbol of the Netherlandish struggle for independence, a fact of which the contemporary observer would have been well aware. The National Gallery in London houses a further work depicting the castle from the other side of the lake.
Cuyp rarely painted scenes of horsemen, as he generally preferred to depict cattle and sheep, and his other horse paintings tend to be much larger than this one. The present work is most comparable to Cuyp's “Two Cavalry Troopers Talking to a Peasant” in the collection of the English royal family. The design of the piebald horse also features exactly in another painting by Aelbert Cuyp from c. 1655 in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Frits Duparc, Fred Meijer, and Christopher Brown confirm the present painting to be an authentic work by Aelbert Cuyp.
Notes on the provenance:
Sir Otto Beit (1865 - 1930) was born in Hamburg. He was younger brother and successor to Alfred Beit, co-founder of the famous South African mining company De Beers alongside Cecil Rhodes. Otto took over the administration of the South African Beit Foundation following Alfred's death and continued to add to the art collection established by the latter. His son inherited this world-class collection and later donated a significant portion of it to the National Gallery of Ireland, including Vermeer's famous work “Girl Writing a Letter”. Following its sale by Christie's in 1969, the present work was purchased by the Bluffer Foundation in Houston, from whence it changed hands to the present owner.
Thomas Agnew´s Sons, London - Collection of Lord Petre. - Collection of Otto Beit. - His son Alfred Beit. - Christie´s London 5.12.1969, lot 101. - Hal O´Nians Gallery, 1977. - Purchased there in 1977 by the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation. - From whom acquired by the present owner.
Catalogue of the Collection of Pictures and Bronzes in the Possession of Sir Otto Beit, introduced by Wilhlem von Bode, London 1913, no. 155. - Exhib. cat.: 17th Century Dutch Painting, National Gallery of South Africa, Kapstadt 1952, no. 11, p. 9. - C. White: A Golden Age of Painting - Dutch, Flemish & German Paintings of the 16th-17th Centuries, from the Collection of The Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, Houston 1981, p. 144-5.
British Fine Arts Club, London 1926-27, no. 15. - National Gallery of South Africa, Kapstadt: 17th Century Dutch Paintings, 1952. - The Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, Houston 1977-2014.